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Hiring a Home Tutor

Financial aspect

When considering hiring a home tutor, the first doubt that many parents will face concerns the financial commitment of weekly individual lessons. The cost of paying a tutor for your child can seem daunting. Sporting, musical and other hobbies are already a huge contributor to weekly costs, as well as school excursions, uniforms etc. Nonetheless, enlisting a tutor’s help should be viewed as making a long term investment into a child’s future. Most schooling systems simply aren’t able to cater to every individual student’s needs. Time constraints leave teachers feeling pressured and helpless, trying to accommodate every child and meet syllabus requirements. 

Finding the right match

Once the decision to hire a tutor has been made, it may still take a while to adjust to a new way of learning, both for the student and their parents. Finding the right tutor can be a lengthy process of trial and error. A multitude of tutors may have the perfect skill set on paper, but this alone will not necessarily be conducive to compatibility. Sometimes the best tutor for your child is the one who can create a comfortable learning environment for them, where they feel at ease asking any questions. Parents should not be concerned if the first tutor they hire does not turn out to be the right one for their child; neither should they feel embarrassed to turn an ill fitting tutor away. 

Moral dilemma- subpar parenting?

In the past, tutoring has been perceived as a last resort, for students who are below average and lacking in natural intelligence. Thankfully, this misconception is fast evolving, such that hiring a tutor is very common and much more widely accepted. Parents who are concerned about the appearances of hiring a home tutor should remind themselves that their child is the main priority. Their learning should never be compromised by such outdated and false assumptions. 

Similarly, many parents will initially feel responsible when their children are falling behind in school. Attempting to live up to unrealistic parenting expectations, they pledge to take things into their own hands. It soon becomes evident that the parent-child relationship is already too complicated to add tutoring into the mix. Students really benefit from an outside perspective in their learning. They will have increased respect and attentiveness towards a tutor or teacher over a parental figure or sibling.

One-to-one focused tuition

A home tutor makes your child their sole focus, week after week, catering to their individual needs as they grow and progress through their studies. A tutor is able to adapt to changes in a student’s mindset or understanding, monitoring their progress more closely than a school teacher is able to. The classroom can be a daunting space, particularly in the high school years. With a home tutor, the student is able to freely express themselves, asking and answering any questions without hesitation. With practice, this confidence is transferable to the classroom. By building confidence at home, one-to-one, a tutor prepares your child to confront any difficulties at school. 

Convenience

Your tutor will come straight to your home every week, meaning that you can save travel time, and are able to supervise every session. 

Support for both parents and students

It can be a stressful and emotional experience when your child is falling behind at school. Enlisting a home tutor means support for your child, but also support for you, as their parent. They will provide you with regular updates and inform you of any specific struggles your child may be facing. Your tutor will sit down with you and your child and formulate a plan, so that you no longer carry the weight alone.

By Gudrun Drake

Guide To Writing A Band 6 HSC English Essay

There’s often a preconceived notion about succeeding in HSC English, with students believing that performing well in English is a result of being “naturally” good at English. This futility heightens when they receive a low mark for an English essay, convincing themselves that, “I’m just not good at English.”

This, however, is just not the case. Here’s a guide on how you can successfully write a band 6 HSC English essay.

How to structure your essay?

The generic essay structure – introduction, body paragraphs and a conclusion – is the one to follow! As arbitrary as it may seem, this structure must be followed. Usually, there are 3 body paragraphs to an essay, with each body paragraph focusing on a different idea or theme; however, may vary depending on if you’ve been told to add a related text or have been instructed otherwise by your teacher.

Figure out your thesis – what argument are you trying to make? Do you want to agree or disagree with what the essay question is implying? Keep in mind that you are allowed to disagree; in fact, it helps you stand out if you do. However, you must do it effectively – ensuring that you do not get side tracked and are answering the question with sufficient evidence.

Writing an effective introduction – the first sentence of your introduction should be indicative of your thesis, e.g. if you are going to be agreeing with the stance presented by the essay question or disagreeing with it. Apart from the basics to include in the introduction – the name of the prescribed text and the author – it is also essential to present the ideas and themes that you will be presenting within the following body paragraphs. Context can also be useful to include within your introduction – indicating to the marker your deep understanding of the text, and the relevance of the text’s context to contemporary society.

Body paragraphs – an effective body paragraph follows the PEEL rule:

  • Point – your key point, i.e. an introductory sentence to present forward the key idea within your body paragraph. This is essentially your thesis, but linked to the specific idea explored within your body paragraph.
  • Evidence – the evidence to back up your claims! It’s typical to include at least three pieces of evidence within one body paragraph to support your argument; however, the specific number of quotations or other evidence isn’t super important as long as you provide sufficient evidence and analysis to support your thesis.
  • Elaboration – where you support your evidence with further explanation, i.e. analysis: what is the purpose of a specific technique being utilised? What effect does it have on the narrative? On the reader?
  • Link – This is the concluding sentence of your body paragraph, where it is essential to reiterate the key ideas of the body paragraph back to the thesis.

Apart from these four key aspects, it might also be useful to present any other information (apart from evidence and analysis) that is relevant in linking your thesis to the introductory statement of your body paragraph. This may be, for example, context or any key plot points of your prescribed text.

Conclusion – summarising the ideas you have presented within your three body paragraphs! No new ideas, themes or information is to be presented in your conclusion – everything you include must have already been discussed within your essay. Your conclusion doesn’t need to be lengthy – 2-3 lines is sufficient.

Whilst these tips may be helpful, you can’t master the art of HSC English essays overnight – practice, practice and practice is key!

Engaging Students in Creative Writing

Re-igniting the creative spark

In our modern world, it can be increasingly difficult to conserve the innate creativity that we are born with. School curriculums all around the world continue to encourage more of a STEM focus, often neglecting the skills and instincts necessary within the arts and humanities. We now know that creativity can be developed, however it must be practised regularly. In teaching students creative writing, we must encourage them to use their imagination. Unfortunately, imagination often becomes less of a focus as students progress through their schooling. This can make creative writing very difficult, particularly as students mature.

The problem of writer’s block

Generating ideas is a key aspect of writing that many students find troublesome. The planning process is pivotal to successful creative writing. Giving students a step by step process to follow, even if only in the early stages, before they become more confident, can help to minimise writer’s block. Many students work better with structured, methodical style thinking, and this is often why they find creative writing so challenging. It can seem quite overwhelming having so much freedom with minimal guidelines. Whilst we should encourage students to enjoy this freedom, they may find some step-by-step rules reassuring to begin with. In this scenario, NAPLAN-style stimulus may be useful in the early stages.

Adapting to different learning styles 

Every student will benefit from a different style of learning, whether with regards to creative writing or any other subject. As tutors, teachers or parents, if we can anticipate this in advance, we can individually tailor our approach to each child’s needs. 

Many students are visual learners, meaning that they will have a better grasp of concepts when they see related written words, pictures or videos. In creative writing, we can have visual learners draw pictures to bring their ideas to life. These learners may also find the ‘mind map’ method to be useful. This will help to organise their thoughts, visualising their ideas and using their imagination, before the writing process even commences. 

Contrastingly, some tutors may find their students achieve more clarity when they vocalise their ideas. Oral learners will gain confidence by conversing aloud, bridging the gap between their imagination and the page. Sometimes, these individuals in particular struggle with commencing the writing process. However, by simply expressing themselves aloud, sorting through their mental clutter, they can self-regulate and find the answers to their own questions.

Finally, kinesthetic learners will prefer to be left alone with their thoughts, pen and paper. This is the way they organise their thinking. In the same sense, their learning style is quite visual. By writing out all the chaotic thoughts and ideas running through their minds, they achieve clarity. It is often these kinds of learners who find writing to come more naturally, as they can avoid the detour of bridging steps that are necessary for other learning styles. 

Encouraging creativity in older students 

As students mature, particularly entering into their high school years, it can be difficult to preserve their enthusiasm towards creative writing. They are starting to leave behind the ‘make-believe’ world they have been living in, becoming more realistic, sometimes even cynical. Older students may begin to feel that fictional writing is pointless (realising that the short story about a dragon that they wrote in year three will probably never be published…). We really need to give them the opportunity to feel that they have a voice, that they are writing for a purpose. Similarly, the more we encourage reading, the more students will feel stimulated by thought-provoking material. Conversation is so important at this age; older students need to feel heard and respected aloud, in order to feel that their writing has value too.

By Gudrun Drake

HSC Survival Guide

We all place a lot of weight on the HSC – the importance of it being emphasised by everyone from teachers and tutors to friends and family. But it’s daunting – a big step from Year 11 and certainly a big jump up from what we’re previously been accustomed to in the junior years of high school. It’s no surprise that students often find themselves saying, “I have no idea what I’m doing.”

Not to fear – these tips will help you out and ensure you make it to the finish line in one piece:

  • Stress management: A big part of keeping your stress under control is being prepared. Use a diary! It doesn’t even need to be a diary – track it on your phone’s calendar or download an organisational app on your phone. Whatever it is, just make sure you stay organised! This allows you to prioritise which tasks need to be done first – ultimately preventing yourself from being unnecessarily stressed out the night before an assessment is due, exclaiming, “I can’t finish this!”
  • Staying motivated: it’s easy to feel discouraged after receiving a bad mark or just feeling like there’s no end in sight. It’s only natural but just remember to always pick yourself after and carry on. There’s so many exciting events in your final year of high school – use those as motivation! Keep moving forward and before you know it, you’ll be at your Year 12 graduation or formal in no time. Or whilst you’re studying, motivate yourself by keeping in the mind the trip abroad you have lined up for post-HSC adventures. Whatever it is – whether it be your dream ATAR or dream university – that motivates you, always keep it at the back of your mind to push yourself through to the end.
  • Prepare yourself adequately for trial exams: Trials are super, super important! It’s emphasised heavily; but for a reason. It’s the only exam block you have in Year 12 prior to sitting your HSC exams and really sets you up for the HSC if you have prepared yourself wisely. For example, the trial exams allows you to get into the feel of sitting in an exam room for 3 hours straight as well as writing faster than you thought was possible for compulsory English or the writing-heavy subjects like Legal Studies.

REMEMBER: if you have adequately prepared for trial examinations, then you already know the majority of the content that will be examined in the HSC. All you need to do then is learn and understand the content not examined in your trial exams or content that you’ve covered in class after trials.

The HSC seems like a big deal and no doubt, it is; but by staying organised, motivated and having fun – you’ll make it through.

HSC English – George Orwell’s ‘1984’

Navigating the HSC English syllabus can be tricky, especially when you’re tackling a prescribed text as complex as George Orwell’s ‘1984’. Not to fear, though! Here’s a basic rundown on the context, key ideas and some quotations that may be useful:

Context:

Orwell, having written ‘1984’ following WW2, was greatly influenced by having witnessed first-hand the rise of authoritarian figures such as Hitler in a post-war era.

Essentially, the world as Orwell knew it was changing. He witnessed authoritarian systems of government seeking to suppress the freedoms of citizens and become fixated on controlling the individual’s right to free speech, free thought and autonomy. His concerns within his own evolving society are reflected within ‘1984’ – prominent as he provides insight into oppressive nature of life in Oceania as dictated by the ruling Party in Oceania.

Context is super important when it comes to a text like ‘1984’, figuring out: Why did Orwell write this? What is the overarching message he is implying about a totalitarian society? Understanding the context of a text such as ‘1984’ can be extremely beneficial in an effective Common Module HSC English Essay, with your essays demonstrating a deep level of understanding and analysis that HSC markers will appreciate.

Key Ideas in ‘1984’

Oppression

Orwell’s concerns within his own evolving society are reflected in ‘1984’ – evident as he provides insight into the oppressive nature of life in Oceania as dictated by the ruling Party in Oceania. Some examples:

  • The Party’s initiation of Newspeak – a language designed to “diminish the range of thought” – has the main aim of making “…thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.” The Party is essentially assassinating words, thus, removing the capabilities of citizens to have any independent thought that would otherwise counter the Party’s accepted norms and standards.
  • The Party’s system of pervasive surveillance, in which, “To keep your face expressionless was not difficult…but you could not control the beating of your heart, and the telescreen was quite delicate enough to pick it up.” This demonstrates the invasive nature of the Party, driving citizens to live in constant fear – allowing the Party to maintain control.

Rebellion & its repercussions

In an environment so heavily restricted by government power, any act of self-expression is punishable by death; this lack of individuality ultimately driving main protagonist, Winston, to rebellion. Examples:

  • Winston’s self-expression – writing in a diary for, “…a time when thought is free…a time when truth exists.” Winston deliberately defies the social constraints placed by the Party in hope of individuality and autonomy.

The repercussions of Winston’s rebellion, however, becomes clear as Winston is subject to a range of punishments, Sometimes it was

  • fists, sometimes it was truncheon…boots.” This reiterates the extent to which the Party has control over its citizens.

George Orwell’s ‘1984’ is considered to be one of the greatest literary works of the 20th century, renowned for its warning on the dangers of a totalitarian system. Analysis of a text as complex as this can be difficult, but it’s doable – and you’ll be able to ace HSC English by understanding exactly what Orwell is warning readers about.